AP NEWS

Together for Thanksgiving

November 25, 2016 GMT

NEW ULM-The 29th Annual New Ulm Community Friends Thanksgiving Dinner was a success. Around 800 meals were served with 600 people eating dinner in the St. Mary’s Church and another 200 dinners were taken out.

All the traditional holiday foods were served including turkey, cranberries, corn, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, carrots, squash and pies. Most of the pies most were pumpkin but a few different flavors were provided by the Methodist Church Ladies.

Co-chair of the Community Friends Dinner Les Schultz said all the food comes from local providers and was prepared the night before. Around 230 people volunteered to make the dinner. Some of the volunteers peeled potatoes Wednesday night while others served food or washed dishes on Thursday.

Longtime volunteer Don Brand has been washing dishes for the community Thanksgiving for the last 25 years. Brand said he started volunteering in the early 1990s because his family typically has Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, meaning he was available to help out on Thursday.

Schultz described the event as “crazy fun.” Dozens of small things need to be done on the day, and it’s always exciting.

The dinner was first organized by Jim Thomas and friends after a Thanksgiving snowstorm stranded travelers in New Ulm and prevented others from traveling to family dinners. The impromptu dinner proved popular and became an annual tradition.

Over the years it has become a great opportunity for residents without nearby family to eat a meal with a group of people. Schultz said several senior citizens came to the dinner alone, but were able to find people to socialize with over turkey.

The dinner is popular for couples spending the holiday without children. Bob and Sharlene Ahlers have attended for the last three years. Their children typically have Thanksgiving with the in-laws, and the community dinner is a great alternative to a small dinner at home.

Even a few larger families took part in the group dinner. A few groups of 10 or 11 were seated early in the day. A table was reserved for a family of 25.

Overall, Schultz felt the dinner was a success. Each year he asks guests which food they like the best. Last year the favorite was the stuffing, but this year no one could name a favorite food.

Cash donations make the annual dinner possible in addition to the hundreds of volunteers preparing for the day.